Issue Archives
True calling
After 25 years as a journalist, Dan O’Halloran went back to his original calling—drawing. No one taught him how to draw. As far back as he can remember, he already knew. Growing up in the Northwest, he sketched and painted wildlife, recording the details that were his passion.

People pointed out his talent to his parents, but with World War II still fresh in their minds, they insisted he pursue a practical future. So he used his powers of observation as a combat correspondent in Vietnam, a journalist for CBS and NBC News and as a newspaper owner in Oregon. Ironically, he sometimes paid his printer and employees in his “legitimate” career at the newspaper by trading or selling his original artworks.

In the early 80s, disillusioned and angry about the rise of consultant-driven broadcast news, Dan walked away. “Quitting wasn’t brave—it was self-preservation,” he says.

He holed up in his Whidbey Island, Wash., home and considered his options. It was a bitter cold February, and one by one, his electricity, heat and phone were shut off. He was OK, but he was wearing several layers of clothes, cooking on a camp stove and talking to his two dogs and cat.
Friends wanted to help, at least to get the heat turned on, but he didn’t care. He spent days drawing a seven-foot long fish, scale by scale. When he finished at the end of March, he was down to two cans of Alpo and two cans of Friskies. He opened the cans and the dogs were happy, the cat was happy, and Dan, who warmed his can on the Coleman and declared the contents no worse than bad tuna, was happy, too.

He made silkscreen prints of the fish banner, and sold a couple right away. It was a turning point. Today, he sells his limited edition lithographs and original drawings, which reflect his interest in Asian philosophy and art, in galleries and online.

Dan pours his most personal and intense ideas onto the page, and asks art buyers to recognize his works as narratives to be understood as well as visuals to enjoy. He often depicts what he sees as a critical issue—man’s tendency to try and manipulate nature, with destructive environmental results.

He’d rather manipulate graphite pencils, colored inks and Prismacolor pencils. He likes the discipline of drawing on rice tissue, a delicate paper he discovered working as a 13-year-old draftsman. For the three months it takes to complete a work, he recalls minute details from memory and renders them onto the fragile sheet. “One wrong move, or even a moist hand, and you’ll tear it,” he says.

O’Halloran’s work can be found at Isle of Art Gallery on Whidbey Island, Wash. Or his website,